Rabbis from Yemen. Photo: M.E. Lilien, 1906
This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #30, “Marx, Lenin and Stalin on Zionism.”
There can be little doubt that the position of Germany Jewry was that of a discriminated section of the German people. This is attested to even in the biographies of the few that managed to climb out of the slums such as the Rothschilds (Elon A; “Rothschild”; London; 1993).
We will not need to itemize these discrimination in detail, as the texts and interpretation are easily available. In brief, the Jews suffered severe restrictions including curfews, limits on where they could live, special mandatory requirements in order to allow them to perform any work, no State employment allowed, and a host of petty problems including upon marriage rights. This does not even discuss the excluding the possibility of pogroms.
The views of Lenin and Stalin on the Jews, followed those of Karl Marx – himself a Jew. In turn, Marx’s views on the Jewish Question, were very similar to contemporary Jewish progressives, such as seen in the early views of Moses Hess, a Jewish social democrat. In essence they all urged Jews to fully embrace secular society in order to merge into it. But Hess then renounced a secular progressive stand to adopt Jewish mysticism. But Moses Hess turned to embraced mysticism. In doing so he ensured that later on, ‘progressive minded Zionists,’ would point to Hess rather than Marx, in order to argue that Socialism and Zionism are supposedly compatible!
In contrast to their support of Hess, Zionists loathe Marx, and charge him of racism. But the grounds for this Zionist charge, are transparently flimsy. The charges invoke a Marx – “alienated” from his Jewishness. The charges of anti-Jewish racism has to deal with the fact that Marx was a descendant of a long line of Rabbis in Germany and Italy. His father in Trier had converted to Christianity, in order obtain livelihood, although his mother never did convert. Marx, it is claimed hated ‘his Jewishness’ – Saul Padover uses the term:
“Selbsthass [self hatred] of Marx.”
(Padover S.K.; “Introduction” vol 5, “On Religion”; Karl Marx Library; New York; 1974, p. Xiii.).
As Padover puts it :
“As an understandable defense mechanism, young Marx deprived of a spiritual base of support in Judaism, imbibed the ancient hostility to his people and accepted all the ugly stereotypes of the brutally caricatured Jew then widely prevalent in Europe .. This was an expression of what the Germans call Selbsthass.”
(Padover Ibid; p. xiii)
The evidence for this is said to reside in his letters, and, especially in his early work. But when these are read, it is clear that what is objectionable to the Zionists, is simply the boldness of the following assertion: That to be free, and to truly and fully exercise civil rights, the Jew must renounce Jewishness, just as the Christian must renounce Christianity.
Even the most antagonistic Zionists, such as Saul Padover, are forced to acknowledge, that Marx’s first published work on the “Jewish Question” which appeared in the Cologne Rheinische Zeitung in the summer of 1842, was a forthright defence of the Jews. At that time, Heinrich Hermes of the Kolnische Zeitung, a Catholic paper, had attacked Jews. In this attack, Hermes denied that Jews had any rights to “Civil Equality.” Marx openly counter-attacked this in print. Following his defence of civil rights for the Jews, Marx told Arnold Ruge that he had been approached by local Jews, to put a petition on behalf of Jews to the Landtag (Diet):
“Just now the chief of the local Israelites came to see me and asked me to forward a petition for the Jews to the Landtag [Diet] and I want to do it. Revolting [Widerlich] though the Israelite religion is to me, nevertheless Bauer’s opinion [on the Jewish Question] seems to me to be too abstract.”
(Marx; Letter to Ruge A; March 13th 1843; Cited Padover Introduction Ibid; p. Xxi.)
The petition was successful, and marked the first time that a German parliament had granted “Complete equality of Jews in civil and political matters.” Padover is forced to take note of this, but he deals with it, by simply dismissing it as: a “political gesture taken by Marx” in spite of “his revulsion for Judaism.” But it is clear that Marx calls the “Israelite religion” revolting, not Jews themselves. In fact the whole of Marx’s work testifies to his determination to tear the veils that perpetuate slavery and enchainment. With Engels, Marx identified backward looking nationalisms and religion as narcotic-laden veils – Marx called a spade a spade. He is just as virulent about Christianity, about Islam, about Hinduism – and all religions. Indeed all these were means to disguise and veil the reality of the world. Hear Marx on the Hindus and the Brahmins:
“We must not forget that.. that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies. We must not forget the barbarian egotism…the perpetuation of unspeakable cruelties, the massacre of the population of large towns…this passive sort of existence evoked…murder itself a religious rite in Hindostan…the little [Hindoo] communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery…they subjected man to external circumstances instead of elevating man to be the sovereign of circumstances…they transformed a self-developing social state into a never changing natural destiny, … brought about a brutalising worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that Man the sovereign of nature fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanuman the monkey, and Sabbala the cow.”
(Marx.,”British Rule in India”; “Marx & Engels on Britain.” Moscow; 1971; p.168. p171-172.)
“I share not the opinion of those who believe in a golden age of Hindostan…the mythological chronology of the Brahmin himself, places the commencement of Indian misery in an epoch even more remote than the Christian creation of the world.”
(Marx, “The British Rule In India,” Ibid. p.168)
Who denies that Marx fought the religious vapours of the Brahmins? Just so, he fought the religious and pseudo-nationalist Zionist vapours. Neither of these fights, made him an anti-Indian racist, or somehow ‘alienated’ from Indian problems, as Padover would have us believe!
What did Marx say on the Jewish Question?
Marx only wrote two main articles that explicitly dealt with the Jews as a central theme. They both took the same essential line.
That the Jews in general, had found a niche in capitalist society, by acting as money lenders. Stripping away sanctimony, Marx therefore proclaimed that something else, besides religion, defined the Jews. In his first article, Marx contrasted the “actual secular Jew” with the “Sabbath Jew.” Since the public role of he most prominent Jews was as money merchants, he concentrates on the “haggling” and usurious life of the Jewish trader:
“Let us consider the actual secular Jew, not the Sabbath Jew as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of religion in the actual Jew. What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the world cult of the Jew? Schacer [Bargaining, haggling, or huckstering-Ed]. What is his worldly god? Money! What actually was the foundation in and of itself, of the Jewish religion? Practical need, egoism. Hence the Jew’s monotheism, is in reality, the polytheism of many needs, a polytheism that makes even the toiler an object of divine law…The god of practical need and self-interest is money. Money is the jealous god of Israel before whom no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of mankind and converts them into commodities.. The god of the Jew has been secularized and has become the god of the world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange… What is contained abstractly in the Jewish religion – contempt for theory, for art, for history, for man as an end in himself – is the actual conscious standpoint and virtue of the money man…The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the money-man in general.”
(On the Jewish Question – “Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher,” Vol 3 Marx Collected Works; pp 146-74).
Padover makes Marx into a mythical Christian loving and Jew hating person. But in reality Marx describes clearly, from where in his view, Christianity came from. It arose from Judaism:
“Christianity arose of Judaism. It has again dissolved itself into Judaism…Christianity overcame real Judaism only in appearance, It was too noble, too spiritual to alienate the crudeness of practical need except by elevating it into the heavens. Christianity is the sublime thought of Judaism, and Judaism is the common practical application of Christianity; but this application could become universal only after Christianity as the compete religion had theoretically competed the alienation of man from himself and from nature.”
(Marx; “On the Jewish Question”; p.191; in Padover Ibid).
For Marx, it was necessary to emphasize the need to dissolve the religious fetters upon the Jews, and by so doing allow them to enter into the rest of society. The article ends with the words:
“The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Jewishness.”
(Marx; “The Holy Family” (b) The Jewish Question No 1. The setting of the question. Volume 4; CW; Moscow; 1975; p. 87; also in Marx “On The Jewish Question”; p.192; in Padover Ibid.)
The second article was contained within a section of the “Holy Family,” which was a settling of accounts, by Marx and Engels, with the pre-Marxist ideologies in Germany as represented by Bruno Bauer, a member of a philosophical grouping known as Absolute Criticism.
Bauer argued to deny civil rights to Jews, because like everyone else, they had no inborn “Rights of Man,” no ‘dogmatic’ claim for this that over-rode everything else. The implication was that nothing was “owed” to the Jews. In an attack on the materialists, whom he names the “spokesmen of the masses,” Bruno Bauer repudiates any ‘Rights of Man':
“How thoughtless the spokesmen of the Masses are; they have God knows what a great opinion of themselves for supporting emancipation and the dogma of the rights of man.”
(Karl Marx: “The Jewish Question No 1. The Setting of the Question.” Part of “The Holy Family.” (1844); In Collected Works; Volume 4; Moscow; 1975; p. 87).
Marx replies that the abstract “Rights of Man” are irrelevant as compared to the much more real, fundamental and practical assertions of the inborn rights of man to “fish, hunt etc,” as had been pointed out by Charles Fourier:
“As for the ‘rights of man,’ it has been proved to Herr Bruno (‘On the Jewish Question’ – Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher)- Vol 3 M CW- pp 146-74) that it is ‘he himself,’ not the spokesmen of the Mass, who has misunderstood and dogmatically mishandled the essence of those rights. Compared to his discovery that the rights of man are not inborn – a discovery which has been made innumerable times in England during the last 40-odd years – Fourier’s assertions that the right to fish, hunt, etc are inborn rights of men is one of genius.”
(Karl Marx: “The Jewish Question No 1.” Part of “The Holy Family”; Ibid; p.87-89).
One of Bruno Bauer’s assertions, had been that it was only to be expected, and indeed was quite natural, that a Christian state would not enshrine rights for Jews:
“The Christian state having as its vital principle a definite religion, cannot allow adherents of another particular religion … Complete equality with its own social estates.”
(Bauer cited in Marx, “The Holy Family” Ibid; p. 88.)
Marx in reply, points out that the Christian states render this whole question meaningless, since they do not even allow civil equality to their Christian their “own social estates”- to use Bauer’s phrase, to even non-Jews:
“The Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher [showed] that the state of social estates and of exclusive Christianity is not only an incomplete state but an incomplete Christian state… Absolute Criticism still regards the abolition of religion atheism, as the condition for civil equality… It has therefore not yet acquired any deeper insight into the essence of the state.”
(Karl Marx: “The Jewish Question No 1.” Part of “The Holy Family”; Ibid; p. 88).
For further detail, the interested reader can consult the Appendix [below] for a detailed annotation of Marx’s article. Although those two articles are the basic and longest exposition on the nature of the Jews by Marx, an isolated later description of the Jews by Marx is often quoted, as another example of Marx’s alleged “anti-Semitism.” Here Marx discussed the historical role of the Jews, and he was equally graphic as in his earlier remarks. Marx’s vivid phrasing – “Jews in the pores of society” – offends Zionists. It seems that this image of the Jews who were not fully visible in the middle of society, Marx painted by Marx, is somehow a ‘racist’ view of Marx. But in what context does Marx place this image? Marx is talking about trading for commodities in the ancient world, where the dominant relations of production are not commodity based. Marx asserts that Jewish trading is ancient in its history:
“In the modes of production of ancient Asia, of Antiquity etc; we find that the conversion of products into commodities, and hence the existence of men as mere producers of commodities plays a subordinate role, which however increases in importance as the ancient communities approach closer and closer to the stage of their decline. Trading nations proper exist in the ancient world only in its interstices, like the Gods of Epicurius in Intermundia, or like the Jew in the pores of Polish society. These ancient social organisms of production are extraordinarily more simple and transparent than the bourgeois ones, but they are based either on the immaturity of the individual man, who has not yet severed the umbilical cord that unites him naturally with his own species, or on direct master-servant relationships. They are conditioned by a lower stage of development of the productive forces of labour and the correspondingly encompassing relationships of men within their material generating processes, and hence to each other and to nature. This actual narrowness is realised ideally in the ancient worship of nature and in folk religions. The religious reflex of the real world can vanish altogether only when the relationships of practical everyday life offer men daily visible and reasonable relationships to each other and to nature.”
(Marx K; “Capital” Volume 1; Chapter 1; Section 4; Cited by Padover Ibid; p. 137.)
Well, is this unfair? Marx is simply pointing out that Jews were not given full civic right in then Poland. There is another dimension, relating to the Jewish concentration in trading. Perhaps Jews were not important traders in the ancient world, and perhaps commodity trading was a more main-stream and prominent feature in antiquity?
But, no evidence to contradict Marx, is shown by those such as Padover who critique Marx here.
The very useful function of providing loose monies for loan, had been the prerogative of the Jew, right up until the Reformation. Until then, loans were made only in the interstices of society. But the increasing need of capital, fueled a demand for the practice of charging interest, or usury. This became a root cause of the Reformation, the vast social movement that upturned traditional Catholicism, and is usually portrayed as the rise of the Protestant religion. But the underlying reasons for the Reformation are still often overlooked. The drawback of Catholicism, one the Protestant version of Christianity could overcome for society, was the lack of money trading. Under Catholicism but not under Protestantism, money trading by loans (known as usury) was forbidden as avarice:
“The historical background.. Consisted of the body of social theory stated & implicit, which was the legacy of the Middle Ages. The formal teaching was derived form the Bible, the works of the Fathers & Schoolmen, the canon law and its commentators, and have been popularized.”
(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 28)
The condemnation of usury supported a land owning feudal society. Pope Innocent IV argued:
“If usury were general, men would not give thought to the cultivation of their land except when they could do ought else, and so there would be so great a famine that all the poor would die of hunger.”
(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 56)
“Early Councils had forbidden usury to be taken by the clergy. The Councils of the 12th & 13th Centuries forbid it to be taken by clergy or laity, and laid down rules for dealing with offenders… The Legislation of the Councils of Lyons (1274) and of Viene (1312) … re-enacted the measures laid down by the third Lateran Council (1175) & supplemented them by rules which virtually made the money-lender an outlaw.”
(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 58.)
Luther‘s views largely echoed traditional Catholicism. But Calvinism, in contrast, was unlike Lutheranism – it was largely an urban movement that reflected the needs of the growing capitalist society. Calvin could write:
“What reason is there why the income from business should not be larger than that from landowning? Whence do the merchant’s profits come… except from his own indulgence & industry?”
(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 113)
There was an intense frustration, by all capitalists and traders, inside the developing capitalist Middle Ages society of developing nations. Even in Florence, the greatest mercantile centre in the Middle Ages, the patent nonsense of the old laws, was shown by the simultaneous hypocrisy of banning usury, whilst depending upon imported Jews to conduct it:
“Florence was the financial capital of medieval Europe; but even at Florence, the secular authorities fined bankers right and left for usury in the middle of the 14th Century, and fifty years later first prohibited credit transaction altogether, and then imported Jews to conduct a business forbidden to Christians.”
(Tawney R.H. “Religion & The Rise of Capitalism”; London; 1975; p. 49.)
So there was a societal need and drive, to adopt the mores of Calvinism.
Following this, the social utility of Judaism to a developing capitalist society diminished. Large scale pogroms would follow the rise of capitalism, which had now ensured its own secure form of usury. (This is a very truncated synopsis. Since Marx’s views on this question encompass the whole place of religion in civil society, we carry a more detailed view of this in Appendix 1).
In Conclusion: Marx stripped bare of camouflage, the vice in which modern workers of all colours and creed were held – capitalist relations. This meant the dissolution of religious faith. Naturally, religiously biased ideologues, like Zionists, will find this offensive. Too bad! We next examine how Marx’s views were echoed by Lenin and Stalin on this question.
Appendix: A More Detailed Synopsis – with our commentary – of Marx’s views on the Jewish Question
All the quotations from Marx’s articles below are drawn from the Marx-Engels Internet Archive and can be found at the following web site for the full index of works by Marx on one particular Internet Archive: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844-jq/index.htm
Please note that all emphases below in the quotes are from the Alliance editors.
Marx’s article contains more than simply an analysis not only of the attitude that revolutionaries should take to the Jewish Question. Because the Jewish Question is a complex mixture of political, civil and religious victimisation, Marx has to deal with the relation of religion to society. Marx also deals with Bauer’s misconceptions surrounding the Democratic Rights Of Man – as adopted by the French Revolution and the USA War of Independence.
Marx first summarises the position of Bruno Bauer.
Bauer starts out saying that no one in Germany, has the type of freedom that Jews want, ie “civic political emancipation.” He argues that it is therefore “egoist-ic” to want a “special emancipation” separate from other humans. He argues that emancipation cannot come from those who are themselves “not free”:
“Bruno Bauer: The German Jews desire emancipation. What kind of emancipation do they desire? Civic, political emancipation. Bruno Bauer replies to them: No one in Germany is politically emancipated. We ourselves are not free. How are we to free you? You Jews are ‘egoists’ if you demand a special emancipation for yourselves as Jews. As Germans, you ought to work for the political emancipation of Germany, and as human beings, for the emancipation of mankind, and you should feel the particular kind of your oppression and your shame not as an exception to the rule, but on the contrary as a confirmation of the rule.”
For Bauer the roots of the “Jewish Question” lie in a religious opposition. This opposition can only be resolved by rendering the opposition impossible. Christianity and Judaism are simply different stages “in the development of the human mind.” But there is only one way to render opposition “impossible” – by abolishing religion. The Jew must follow Bauer’s dictum of self-emancipation, the Jew must renounce religion:
“How, then, does Bauer solve the Jewish question?…
‘We must emancipate ourselves before we can emancipate others.’
The most rigid form of the opposition between the Jew and the Christian is the religious opposition. How is an opposition resolved? By making it impossible. How is religious opposition made impossible? By ‘abolishing religion.’ As soon as Jew and Christian recognize that their respective religions are no more than ‘different stages in the development of the human mind,’ different snake skins cast off by ‘history,’ and that man is the snake who sloughed them, the relation of Jew and Christian is no longer religious but is only a critical, ‘scientific,’ and human relation. Science, then, constitutes their unity. But, contradictions in science are resolved by science itself.”
For Bauer this renunciation and self-emancipation is necessary for Christians as well as Jews. It has a “universal significance.” The question embraces more than the individual, being also a “question of the relation of religion to the state”:
“The ‘German Jew,’ in particular, is confronted by the general absence of political emancipation and the strongly marked Christian character of the state. In Bauer’s conception, however, the Jewish question has a universal significance, independent of specifically German conditions. It is the question of the relation of religion to the state, of the contradiction between religious constraint and political emancipation. Emancipation from religion is laid down as a condition, both to the Jew who wants to be emancipated politically, and to the state which is to effect emancipation and is itself to be emancipated.”
In any case, argues Bauer, even if the State itself took the actions demanded by Jews, the State’s formal actions will not achieve the desired results. Bauer cites the French State as an example. Here the formal declaration of equality for all was not matched in practice. He then stresses that the responsibility for emancipation lies with the victim, the Jew – who should renounce religion and the Sabbath allowing him/her to attend the Chamber of Deputies and vote down the “privileged religion.” With the ending of a “privileged religion” (ie Christianity) the freedom of worship as an individual act will follow. Marx concludes:
“Bauer, therefore, demands, on the one hand, that the Jew should renounce Judaism, and that mankind in general should renounce religion, in order to achieve ‘civic’ emancipation. On the other hand, he quite consistently regards the ‘political’ abolition of religion as the abolition of religion as such. The state which presupposes religion is not yet a true, real state.”
Marx now begins his demolition of Bauer. In essence, Marx shows that Bauer:
(i) Confuses civil and political emancipation;
(ii) Does not understand the distinction between full human freedoms and state granted political freedom;
(iii) That he does not understand the concrete manifestations of the Jewish Question in the different States;
(iv) That he does not understand the Declaration of Rights Of Man.
Marx outlines the limitations and the questions left unanswered by the mechanistic Bauer. Especially asks Marx, What is the nature of the emancipation being demanded that Bauer has not addressed?
“At this point, the one-sided formulation of the Jewish question becomes evident. It was by no means sufficient to investigate: Who is to emancipate? Who is to be emancipated? Criticism had to investigate a third point. It had to inquire: What kind of emancipation is in question? [Editor’s emphasis]. What conditions follow from the very nature of the emancipation that is demanded? Only the criticism of political emancipation itself would have been the conclusive criticism of the Jewish question and its real merging in the general question of time. Because Bauer does not raise the question to this level, he becomes entangled in contradictions. He puts forward conditions which are not based on the nature of political emancipation itself. He raises questions which are not part of his problem, and he solves problems which leave this question unanswered.”
Bauer excuses the bigots who opposed Jewish emancipation, seeing them as only committing only one error- they assume a Christian state to be the only true one, and they do not criticise it as they do Judaism. For Marx the relevant criticism is the state itself, and the relationship of political emancipation to human emancipation:
“We find that his error lies in the fact that he subjects to criticism only the ‘Christian state,’ not the ‘state as such,’ that he does not investigate the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation and, therefore, puts forward conditions which can be explained only by uncritical confusion of political emancipation with general human emancipation.”
Thus Marx turns Bauer’s question to the Jews around. Marx defends in effect the right of a private choice to religion and Judaism in particular. This right is not dependent upon, nor subordinate to a superior political emancipation:
“If Bauer asks the Jews: Have you, from your standpoint, the right to want political emancipation? We ask the converse question: Does the standpoint of political emancipation give the right to demand from the Jew the abolition of Judaism and from man the abolition of religion?”
Marx also points out that freedoms necessitate understanding concrete realities. There are particular aspects that the Jewish question takes in different societies. Thus in Germany, a state not yet undergone the bourgeois revolution, a theological State is encountered by the Jew:
“In Germany, where there is no political state, no state as such, the Jewish question is a purely theological one. The Jew finds himself in religious opposition to the state, which recognizes Christianity as its basis. This state is a theologian ex professo. Criticism here is criticism of theology, a double-edged criticism — criticism of Christian theology and of Jewish theology. Hence, we continue to operate in the sphere of theology, however much we may operate critically within it.”
Whereas since France is a constitutional state with differing effects on Jews, there it was a question of a incompleteness of political emancipation:
“In France, a constitutional state, the Jewish question is a question of constitutionalism, the question of the incompleteness of political emancipation. Since the semblance of a state religion is retained here, although in a meaningless and self-contradictory formula, that of a religion of the majority, the relation of the Jew to the state retains the semblance of a religious, theological opposition.”
Only one state, the USA, has an apparently fully secular relationship with its peoples, allowing religious freedoms. Although Marx made it clear that he obviously understood that hypocrisies abounded, saying that although the USA Constitution was clear on the freedom of worship, North America is pre-eminently the country of religiosity. Nonetheless:
“Only in the North American states — at least, in some of them — does the Jewish question lose its theological significance and become a really secular question. Only where the political state exists in its completely developed form can the relation of the Jew, and of the religious man in general, to the political state, and therefore the relation of religion to the state, show itself in its specific character, in its purity. The criticism of this relation ceases to be theological criticism as soon as the state ceases to adopt a theological attitude toward religion, as soon as it behaves towards religion as a state — i.e., politically. Criticism, then, becomes criticism of the political state. At this point, where the question ceases to be theological, Bauer’s criticism ceases to be critical.”
In any case, the fundamental question is the relation of political emancipation to religion. Marx argues that if religious motivations still remain, despite “political emancipation” in countries like the USA, it is because of an incomplete secular freedom, a defect of a secular narrowness. Religion itself is not the cause of the defect. Religion can only be overcome not by overcoming religious narrowness but by getting rid of secular restrictions – Not by abolishing religion as Bauer proclaims:
“The question is: What is the relation of complete political emancipation to religion? If we find that even in the country of complete political emancipation, religion not only exists, but displays a fresh and vigorous vitality, that is proof that the existence of religion is not in contradiction to the perfection of the state. Since, however, the existence of religion is the existence of defect, the source of this defect can only be sought in the nature of the state itself. We no longer regard religion as the cause, but only as the manifestation of secular narrowness. Therefore, we explain the religious limitations of the free citizen by their secular limitations. We do not assert that they must overcome their religious narrowness in order to get rid of their secular restrictions, we assert that they will overcome their religious narrowness once they get rid of their secular restrictions. We do not turn secular questions into theological ones… The question of the relation of political emancipation to religion becomes for us the question of the relation of political emancipation to human emancipation. We criticize the religious weakness of the political state by criticizing the political state in its secular form, apart from its weaknesses as regards religion.”
Marx agrees with Bauer, that for both Jews and Christians, full liberty means shedding religious superstitions. But for a fuller human liberation, the first and immediate need is for separation of state and religion, for the emancipation of the state from any particular secular elements and from state religion. This is a political emancipation & not a religious emancipation which requires human emancipation:
“The contradiction between the state and a particular religion, for instance Judaism, is given by us a human form as the contradiction between the state and particular secular elements; the contradiction between the state and religion in general as the contradiction between the state and its presuppositions in general. The political emancipation of the Jew, the Christian, and, in general, of religious man, is the emancipation of the state from Judaism, from Christianity, from religion in general… the state as a state emancipates itself from religion by emancipating itself from the state religion — that is to say, by the state as a state not professing any religion, but, on the contrary, asserting itself as a state. The political emancipation from religion is not a religious emancipation that has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction, because political emancipation is not a form of human emancipation which has been carried through to completion and is free from contradiction.”
It is irrelevant if even the majority of the people remain religious. For religious sentiments remain, until the people undergo a more profound freedom. The problem is the limits of a political emancipation by itself:
“The limits of political emancipation are evident at once from the fact that the state can free itself from a restriction without man being really free from this restriction, that the state can be a free state without man being a free man.”
Marx means by this, the need for a further and profound liberation of the human. To drive his point home, Marx draws an analogy to private property relations. As the USA state had abolished requirements of property for the right to vote, he argues that it had effectively abolished private property. But Marx says this is ridiculous since clearly, private property not only exists in the USA, but that it forms the presupposed basis for the state:
“Nevertheless, the political annulment of private property not only fails to abolish private property but even presupposes it. The state abolishes, in its own way, distinctions of birth, social rank, education, occupation, when it declares that birth, social rank, education, occupation, are non-political distinctions, when it proclaims, without regard to these distinction, that every member of the nation is an equal participant in national sovereignty, when it treats all elements of the real life of the nation from the standpoint of the state. Nevertheless, the state allows private property, education, occupation, to act in their way – i.e., as private property, as education, as occupation, and to exert the influence of their special nature. Far from abolishing these real distinctions, the state only exists on the presupposition of their existence; it feels itself to be a political state and asserts its universality only in opposition to these elements of its being.”
Consistent with this type of hypocrisy of the tenets of the bourgeois Constitution, religious conflicts will exist in politically bourgeois states. But these are no different in kind from contradictions even the bourgeoisie find themselves in with respect to their status as supposed free citizens. Marx locates Jew’s problems in civil society, in the same conflicts of the citizen whose political powers are merely a sophistry and not a real one:
“Man, as the adherent of a particular religion, finds himself in conflict with his citizenship and with other men as members of the community. This conflict reduces itself to the secular division between the political state and civil society. For man as a bourgeois [ here, meaning, member of civil society, private life], life in the state is only a semblance or a temporary exception to the essential and the rule. Of course, the bourgeois, like the Jew, remains only sophistically in the sphere of political life, just as the citoyen only sophistically remains a Jew or a bourgeois. But, this sophistry is not personal. It is the sophistry of the political state itself. The difference between the merchant and the citizen, between the day-labourer and the citizen, between the landowner and the citizen, between the merchant and the citizen, between the living individual and the citizen. The contradiction in which the religious man finds himself with the political man is the same contradiction in which the bourgeois finds himself with the citoyen, and the member of civil society with his political lion’s skin.”
For Marx, Bauer ignores the Jew’s secular problems, confining himself to the purely religious conflicts:
“This secular conflict, to which the Jewish question ultimately reduces itself, the relation between the political state and its preconditions, whether these are material elements, such as private property, etc., or spiritual elements, such as culture or religion, the conflict between the general interest and private interest, the schism between the political state and civil society — these secular antitheses Bauer allows to persist, whereas he conducts a polemic against their religious expression.”
As explained, Marx distinguishes political emancipation from the full human emancipation that tackles the religious sentiment. It is not surprising then, that Marx says that political emancipation of itself, often leaves religion intact. A thorough liberation, including from religion, requires special periods when new political states arise out of civil society, where a permanent non-stop revolution does not baulk at hurdles:
“Of course, in periods when the political state as such is born violently out of civil society, when political liberation is the form in which men strive to achieve their liberation, the state can and must go as far as the abolition of religion, the destruction of religion. But, it can do so only in the same way that it proceeds to the abolition of private property, to the maximum, to confiscation, to progressive taxation, just as it goes as far as the abolition of life, the guillotine. At times of special self-confidence, political life seeks to suppress its prerequisite, civil society and the elements composing this society, and to constitute itself as the real species-life of man, devoid of contradictions. But, it can achieve this only by coming into violent contradiction with its own conditions of life, only by declaring the revolution to be permanent, and, therefore, the political drama necessarily ends with the re-establishment of religion, private property, and all elements of civil society, just as war ends with peace.”
So Marx differentiates between the more limited liberation in political emancipation of the secular state of bourgeois society (that which in words denies religious persecution and property rights, but in fact endorses them) and a fuller human liberation. Where does all this leave the Jew? Bauer had denied the Jew civil rights till renunciation of Judaism. Marx denies that. But he adds, for full liberation, the Jew must strive for a human liberation from religion itself – as well as striving for political emancipation. The latter can be achieved without renouncing Judaism, but human liberation requires leaving religion. The Jew however, in confronting the Christian state, in demanding civic rights is acting politically:
“Therefore, we do not say to the Jews, as Bauer does: You cannot be emancipated politically without emancipating yourselves radically from Judaism. On the contrary, we tell them: Because you can be emancipated politically without renouncing Judaism completely and incontrovertibly, political emancipation itself is not human emancipation. If you Jews want to be emancipated politically, without emancipating yourselves humanly, the half-hearted approach and contradiction is not in you alone, it is inherent in the nature and category of political emancipation. If you find yourself within the confines of this category, you share in a general confinement. Just as the state evangelizes when, although it is a state, it adopts a Christian attitude towards the Jews, so the Jew acts politically when, although a Jew, he demands civic rights.”
Bauer had a somewhat mystical idea of how Democratic Rights were obtained. According to Bauer, the rights of man were not a gift of nature but were obtained by struggle against historical tradition:
“But, if a man, although a Jew, can be emancipated politically and receive civic rights, can he lay claim to the so-called rights of man and receive them? Bauer denies it. [Says Bauer]:
‘The question is whether the Jew as such, that is, the Jew who himself admits that he is compelled by his true nature to live permanently in separation from other men, is capable of receiving the universal rights of man and of conceding them to others. For the Christian world, the idea of the rights of man was only discovered in the last century. It is not innate in men; on the contrary, it is gained only in a struggle against the historical traditions in which hitherto man was brought up. Thus the rights of man are not a gift of nature, not a legacy from past history, but the reward of the struggle against the accident of birth and against the privileges which up to now have been handed down by history from generation to generation. These rights are the result of culture, and only one who has earned and deserved them can possess them.
Can the Jew really take possession of them? As long as he is a Jew, the restricted nature which makes him a Jew is bound to triumph over the human nature which should link him as a man with other men, and will separate him from non-Jews. He declares by this separation that the particular nature which makes him a Jew is his true, highest nature, before which human nature has to give way. Similarly, the Christian as a Christian cannot grant the rights of man.'”
In countering this naive mystic view, Marx shows that Bauer had not even understood the notion of the universal rights of man. For Bauer, man has to sacrifice the privilege of faith to obtain universal rights of man. But Marx points out that these rights were never seen, by either the French and the USA framers of the Declaration of Rights, as being contingent upon abolition of religion:
“Let us examine, for a moment, the so-called rights of man — to be precise, the rights of man in their authentic form, in the form which they have among those who discovered them, the North Americans and the French. These rights of man are, in part, political rights, rights which can only be exercised in community with others. Their content is participation in the community, and specifically in the political community, in the life of the state. They come within the category of political freedom, the category of civic rights, which, as we have seen, in no way presuppose the incontrovertible and positive abolition of religion — nor, therefore, of Judaism.”
Marx now examines the possible differences between the rights of man and the rights of the citizen:
“There remains to be examined the other part of the rights of man — the rights of man, insofar as these differ from the rights of the citizen. Included among them is freedom of conscience, the right to practice any religion one chooses. The privilege of faith is expressly recognized either as a right of man or as the consequence of a right of man, that of liberty. Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1791, Article 10:
‘The freedom of every man to practice the religion of which he is an adherent.'”
Marx quotes the Declaration, showing that the Right of freedom of conscience is drawn from Nature:
“All men have received from nature the imprescriptible right to worship the Almighty according to the dictates of their conscience, and no one can be legally compelled to follow, establish, or support against his will any religion or religious ministry. No human authority can, in any circumstances, intervene in a matter of conscience or control the forces of the soul.”
Marx now distinguishes between man and citizen. Man – as in rights of man – is the person who makes up civil society. Man, separated atomically from other men. He goes on to quote directly from the most radical Constitution that of 1793, that was used to define liberty, what is it that constitutes liberty?
“The rights of man, are, as such, distinct from… the rights of the citizen. Who is man as distinct from citizen? None other than the member of civil society. Why is the member of civil society called man; why are his rights called the rights of man? How is this fact to be explained? From the relationship between the political state and civil society, from the nature of political emancipation…
…Above all, we note the fact that the so-called rights of man.. as distinct from the rights of citizens, are nothing but the rights of a member of civil society — i.e., the rights of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community. Let us hear what the most radical Constitution, the Constitution of 1793, has to say: Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Article 2. These rights, etc., (the natural and imprescriptible rights) are: equality, liberty, security, property.
What constitutes liberty?
‘Article 6. Liberty is the power which man has to do everything that does not harm the rights of others, or, according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1791: Liberty consists in being able to do everything which does not harm others.’
Liberty, therefore, is the right to do everything that harms no one else. The limits within which anyone can act without harming someone else are defined by law, just as the boundary between two fields is determined by a boundary post. It is a question of the liberty of man as an isolated monad, withdrawn into himself.”
Marx returns to contrast Bauer‘s position with that of the 1793 Constitution. Bauer’s position in demanding of the Jew to renounce Judaism before granting human rights – Liberty in the words of the Declaration of Rights Of Man – is that unless the Jew does renounce Judaism he will remain separate from non-Jews:
“Why is the Jew, according to Bauer, incapable of acquiring the rights of man? As long as he is a Jew, the restricted nature which makes him a Jew is bound to triumph over the human nature which should link him as a man with other men, and will separate him from non-Jews.”
And Marx replies to him saying that the very notion of liberty under the bourgeois Declaration of Rights is of a separation of man from man, on an isolated individual. This is easily illustrated with respect to another aspect of the Declaration of Rights of Man, that concerning private property:
“But, the right of man to liberty is based not on the association of man with man, but on the separation of man from man. It is the right of this separation, the right of the restricted individual, withdrawn into himself. The practical application of man’s right to liberty is man’s right to private property.
What constitutes man’s right to private property?
Article 16. (Constitution of 1793):
‘The right of property is that which every citizen has of enjoying and of disposing at his discretion of his goods and income, of the fruits of his labor and industry.’
The right of man to private property is, therefore, the right to enjoy one’s property and to dispose of it at one’s discretion (a son gre), without regard to other men, independently of society, the right of self-interest. This individual liberty and its application form the basis of civil society. It makes every man see in other men not the realization of his own freedom, but the barrier to it. But, above all, it proclaims the right of man of enjoying and of disposing at his discretion of his goods and income, of the fruits of his labor and industry.”
Of the other rights of man: There remains the other rights of man: equality and security. Marx goes on to show that these also consist of a guarantee of individual rights as a self-sufficient nomad:
“Equality, used here in its non-political sense, is nothing but the equality of the liberty described above — namely: each man is to the same extent regarded as such a self-sufficient monad. The Constitution of 1795 defines the concept of this equality, in..
Article 3 (Constitution of 1795):
Equality consists in the law being the same for all, whether it protects or punishes.
And Security? Article 8 (Constitution of 1793):
Security consists in the protection afforded by society to each of its members for the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property.
Security is the highest social concept of civil society, the concept of police, expressing the fact that the whole of society exists only in order to guarantee to each of its members the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property. It is in this sense that Hegel calls civil society the state of need and reason.”
Marx concludes that egoism is enshrined in the Democratic Rights of Man:
“None of the so-called rights of man, therefore, go beyond egoistic man, beyond man as a member of civil society — that is, an individual withdrawn into himself, into the confines of his private interests and private caprice, and separated from the community. In the rights of man, he is far from being conceived as a species-being; on the contrary, species-like itself, society, appears as a framework external to the individuals, as a restriction of their original independence. The sole bound holding them together it natural necessity, need and private interest, the preservation of their property and their egoistic selves.”
As the Democratic Rights of Man signalled the victory of the bourgeois production over feudal production, Marx finds it consistent that an egoistic man should result:
“Feudal society was resolved into its basic element — man, but man as he really formed its basis — egoistic man. This man, the member of civil society, is thus the basis, the precondition, of the political state. He is recognized as such by this state in the rights of man.”
Again Marx stresses the incompleteness of the emancipation achieved under bourgeois rule, that there is freedom of religious opinion, but not freedom from religion:
“Hence, man was not freed from religion, he received religious freedom. He was not freed from property, he received freedom to own property. He was not freed from the egoism of business, he received freedom to engage in business. Man as a member of civil society, unpolitical man, inevitably appears, however, as the natural man. The rights of man appears as natural rights, because conscious activity is concentrated on the political act. “
Full emancipation has still to come, when the abstract citizen is re-absorbed into the individual man, – that is when recognises and exerts his conscious social powers:
“All emancipation is a reduction of the human world and relationships to man himself. Political emancipation is the reduction of man, on the one hand, to a member of civil society, to an egoistic, independent individual, and, on the other hand, to a citizen, a juridical person. Only when the real, individual man re-absorbs in himself the abstract citizen, and as an individual human being has become a species-being in his everyday life, in his particular work, and in his particular situation, only when man has recognized and organized his ‘own powers’ as social powers, and, consequently, no longer separates social power from himself in the shape of political power, only then will human emancipation have been accomplished.”
For Bauer, the Christian is closer to freedom than the Jew, since the Christian only needs to give up religion. But the Jew not only has to give up religion but also has to give up struggle to perfecting his religion. Marx realises that Bauer has simply re-dressed in civic clothes, the old religious conflict between Judaism and Christianity. Marx condemns the transformation of Jewish emancipation into a purely religious question:
“For Bauer: The Christian has to surmount only one stage, namely, that of his religion, in order to give up religion altogether, and therefore become free. The Jew, on the other hand, has to break not only with his Jewish nature, but also with the development towards perfecting his religion, a development which has remained alien to him. Thus, Bauer here transforms the question of Jewish emancipation into a purely religious question. The theological problem as to whether the Jew or the Christian has the better prospect of salvation is repeated here in the enlightened form: which of them is more capable of emancipation. No longer is the question asked: Is it Judaism or Christianity that makes a man free? On the contrary, the question is now: Which makes man freer, the negation of Judaism or the negation of Christianity?”
Bauer uses a complex theological argument to portray the Jews need to overcome not only Judaism itself, but also Judaism’s link with Christianity. Jews must not only come to terms with Judaism, but also with Christianity by carrying out the Critique of the Evangelical History of the Synoptics and the Life of Jesus, etc. Since Bauer conceives of Judaism as a Acrude religious criticism of Christianity, and of Judaism merely of religious significance, he transforms the emancipation of the Jews, also into a philosophical-theological act. Finally Bauer notes & excuses that Christians find Jews offensive. In contrast to this religious hocus-pocus, Marx emphasises the secular realities. This means an unsentimental analysis of the position of the Jew in society:
“We are trying to break with the theological formulation of the question. For us, the question of the Jew’s capacity for emancipation becomes the question: What particular social element has to be overcome in order to abolish Judaism? For the present-day Jew’s capacity for emancipation is the relation of Judaism to the emancipation of the modern world. This relation necessarily results from the special position of Judaism in the contemporary enslaved world. Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew — not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew. Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.”
So saying Marx locates the Jewish reality in money trading, in sacher – or huckstering:
“What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time.”
This being so, only a societal change of society to abolish those preconditions of huckstering – can make the Jew impossible:
“An organization of society which would abolish the preconditions for huckstering, and therefore the possibility of huckstering, would make the Jew impossible. His religious consciousness would be dissipated like a thin haze in the real, vital air of society. On the other hand, if the Jew recognizes that this practical nature of his is futile and works to abolish it, he extricates himself from his previous development and works for human emancipation as such and turns against the supreme practical expression of human self-estrangement. We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development — to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed — has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate. In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.”
Bauer argues that the Jews have financial power, and goes so far as to state that it is fiction to say that the Jew is deprived of political rights, given the Jew has so much money power:
“According to Bauer, it is a fictitious state of affairs when in theory the Jew is deprived of political rights, whereas in practice he has immense power and exerts his political influence en gros, although it is curtailed en detail.”
Marx replies that money power is not always consonant with political power:
“The contradiction that exists between the practical political power of the Jew and his political rights is the contradiction between politics and the power of money in general. Although theoretically the former is superior to the latter, in actual fact politics has become the serf of financial power.”
The peculiar power of the Jews arises from the need for money free of restraints:
“Judaism has held its own alongside Christianity, not only as religious criticism of Christianity… but equally because the practical Jewish spirit, Judaism, has maintained itself and even attained its highest development in Christian society. The Jew, who exists as a distinct member of civil society, is only a particular manifestation of the Judaism of civil society… The Jew is perpetually created by civil society from its own entrails. What, in itself, was the basis of the Jewish religion? Practical need, egoism. … Practical need, egoism, is the principle of civil society, and as such appears in pure form as soon as civil society has fully given birth to the political state. The god of practical need and self-interest is money. Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man — and turns them into commodities. Money is the universal self-established value of all things. It has, therefore, robbed the whole world — both the world of men and nature — of its specific value. Money is the estranged essence of man’s work and man’s existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it. The god of the Jews has become secularized and has become the god of the world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange. The view of nature attained under the domination of private property and money is a real contempt for, and practical debasement of, nature; in the Jewish religion, nature exists, it is true, but it exists only in imagination.”
Indeed Judaism reaches its peak in Christian society, since its social function of money loaning is unique, and very much needed by Christians:
“Judaism reaches its highest point with the perfection of civil society, but it is only in the Christian world that civil society attains perfection. Only under the dominance of Christianity, which makes all national, natural, moral, and theoretical conditions extrinsic to man, could civil society separate itself completely from the life of the state, sever all the species-ties of man, put egoism and selfish need in the place of these species-ties, and dissolve the human world into a world of atomistic individuals who are inimically opposed to one another.”
“Christianity sprang from Judaism. It has merged again in Judaism. From the outset, the Christian was the theorizing Jew, the Jew is, therefore, the practical Christian, and the practical Christian has become a Jew again. Christianity had only in semblance overcome real Judaism. It was too noble-minded, too spiritualistic to eliminate the crudity of practical need in any other way than by elevation to the skies. Christianity is the sublime thought of Judaism, Judaism is the common practical application of Christianity, but this application could only become general after Christianity as a developed religion had completed theoretically the estrangement of man from himself and from nature. Only then could Judaism achieve universal dominance and make alienated man and alienated nature into alienable, vendible objects subjected to the slavery of egoistic need and to trading. Selling [verausserung] is the practical aspect of alienation [Entausserung]. Just as man, as long as he is in the grip of religion, is able to objectify his essential nature only by turning it into something alien, something fantastic, so under the domination of egoistic need he can be active practically, and produce objects in practice, only by putting his products, and his activity, under the domination of an alien being, and bestowing the significance of an alien entity — money — on them. In its perfected practice, Christian egoism of heavenly bliss is necessarily transformed into the corporal egoism of the Jew, heavenly need is turned into world need, subjectivism into self-interest. We explain the tenacity of the Jew not by his religion, but, on the contrary, by the human basis of his religion — practical need, egoism.”
Is there a Jewish nation? Marx thinks this is a chimera:
“The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general. The groundless law of the Jew is only a religious caricature of groundless morality and right in general, of the purely formal rites with which the world of self-interest surrounds itself. Here, too, man’s supreme relation is the legal one, his relation to laws that are valid for him not because they are laws of his own will and nature, but because they are the dominant laws and because departure from them is avenged.”
Again the social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism ie the emancipation of society from money and mercantile bonds of trading:
“Once society has succeeded in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism — huckstering and its preconditions — the Jew will have become impossible, because his consciousness no longer has an object, because the subjective basis of Judaism, practical need, has been humanized, and because the conflict between man’s individual-sensuous existence and his species-existence has been abolished.”
The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.